Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by having an unsafe obsession with healthy food. The term is derived from the Greek word “orthos,” which means, “right” and “rexia” which means, “hunger”. Therefore this terms literally means “righteous eating”. An obsession with healthy dieting and consuming only pure foods becomes deeply rooted in the individual’s way of thinking to the point that it interferes with their daily life. Examples of severe eating disturbances seen in orthorexia include eating only fruits and vegetables or only consuming organic food. Although orthorexia is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it is still recognized by many mental health professionals and eating disorder experts.
Unhealthy and obsessive thoughts, emotions and behaviors about eating “clean” or “healthy” food can drive individuals to isolate themselves from their friends and family, causing a strain on their social life and personal relationships. Additionally, their health can take a toll if they restrict too many food groups resulting in the elimination of necessary nutrients and vitamins. The following are known signs and symptoms of orthorexia:
The term orthorexia was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman M.D. in 1996 and has gained a large audience of followers including many professionals in the psychiatry and eating disorder world. "Healthy eating" is not healthy when it becomes an overwhelming obsessive behavior creating conflicts within the inner self. Unlike individuals with anorexia nervosa who are obsessed with losing weight or preventing weight gain, individuals with orthorexia may not be obsessed with their weight but instead are obsessed with healthy eating. However, both of these populations have an underlying problem with self-control.
Orthorexia can result in severe health problems such as malnourishment leading to protein deficiency disorders that can harm the kidneys and other vital organs. Additionally, the presence of co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse disorders can increase the morbidity and mortality associated with orthorexia.
Our Alexandria, VA Orthorexia recovery treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy and nutritional counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows the individual to recognize their unhealthy obsessive thoughts. Understanding the underlying issues such as self-control, depression or a past history of trauma or neglect can allow the individual to understand why these obsessive thoughts are occurring and learn ways to channel these negative thoughts into more positive ways of thinking. Positive and healthy behaviors such as problem-solving skills, communication skills and healthy coping mechanisms are also taught to our patients so they can use these tools to prevent harmful behaviors associated with their eating habits. Nutritional counseling is also recommended to educate patients on the importance of eating a balanced diet and to help them be more of accepting of other types of foods.
Center For Discovery Alexandria, VA specializes in outpatient treatment for orthorexia nervosa with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.
For more information, resources, or to consult with an eating disorder treatment specialist, call 703.879.7722